Cold and flu season is officially upon us (boo!) and with the normal person averaging 2-4 colds a year, it’s prime time to give your immune system a boost. We’ve enlisted the help of dietitian Sian Porter, who suggests upping your intake of the following five vitamins and minerals found in foods we guarantee you’ve already got in your kitchen to make you feel better.
Orange juice The nutrient? Vitamin C.
“Vitamin C contributes to the healthy function of the immune system. A daily 150ml glass of pure orange juice count as one of your five-a-day and contains the vitamin C you need daily. Conveniently, pure orange juice is also a source of the B-vitamin folate, needed for white blood cells (that protect the body against infectious disease) to rapidly reproduce,” explains Sian.
Spinach The nutrient? Iron.
In order to get your daily dose, winter leafy vegetables are one of the best sources of iron. Additional iron-rich-foods include lean red meat, iron-fortified cereals, pulses (beans like red kidney beans, chick peas, lentils), and eggs For a speedy lunchtime boost, whizz them with other veg and ready to eat beans and lentils into speedy soups or risotto with a good low salt veggie or chicken stock. “When it comes to filling your plate, it’s no myth that green is great! Winter greens such as spinach are rich in essential nutrients including iron and served alongside a winter warming bean stew this makes perfect eating for cough and cold season,” says Sian.
Almonds The nutrient? Zinc.
Snack foods like chocolate and biscuits might be tempting comfort foods when it’s cold, but they can contain a lot of sugar and provide little nutritional value. “Snack on a handful of nuts like almonds, they are a good source of zinc which contributes to the healthy function of the immune system. Other sources include lean red meat, poultry, nuts, seeds, Quorn, beans, and whole grains.” says Sian.
Mushrooms The nutrient? Selenium.
For an extra boost – choose mushrooms that are a source of vitamin D now the winter weather’s here. “Like vitamin C, selenium is an important antioxidant that has a role in normal immune function. Mushrooms are a handy winter standby to give meals taste and texture, but they’re also a source of selenium,” says Sian.
Carrots The nutrient? Beta-carotene.
When bacteria or viruses enter the body, the immune system triggers an ‘immune response’ to fight them off. Beta -carotene is vital in this process, so brighten up your meals and tuck into carrots and red peppers, sweets potatoes, cabbage and mango. “As well the part of our immune system known as ‘innate immunity’, the body also has processes in place called ‘adaptive immunity’ which is when the body recognises a micro-organism like a virus or bacteria and initiates a response. Vitamin A (the body converts beta-carotene into vitamin A) is needed for the development of cells which carry out this response. Adding veg rich in beta-carotene like carrots and red peppers will brighten up your winter dishes and boost your beta-carotene intake,” explains Sian.